Rhys’ 2012 wines lead the pack in Gilman’s “View From the Cellar” (Aug 2014, Issue #52)
Rhys’ 2012 wines lead the pack in Gilman’s “View From the Cellar” (Aug 2014, Issue #52)
by John Gilman, View from the Cellar (August 2014 #52)
The Santa Cruz Mountains-based winery of Rhys Vineyards has certainly created an epicenter of change on its own in the few short years of its existence, firmly showing that the abomination of the “modern school” of California wine is a crisis of conscience, not of climate change.
2012 Alesia “Alder Springs Vineyard” Chardonnay (Mendocino)
The second label from Rhys Vineyards, Alesia, seems to be home these days to some of the more serious examples of chardonnay and pinot noir that one can find on the market, as this 2012 chardonnay from the Alder Springs Vineyard is exceptional. The wine is fairly ripe for a wine from Rhys, tipping the scales at 13.2 percent, but it is focused, balanced and shows lovely promise for cellaring. The bouquet is a complex mélange of pear, pineapple, fresh nutmeg, a fine base of soil, a bit of butter, acacia blossoms and a deft framing of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and still fairly primary, with a fine core, crisp acids, lovely focus and a long, poised and very well-balanced finish. I had no troubles whatsoever finishing the sample bottle, but this wine is going to be an even better drink with a year or two of bottle age. 2014- 2025. 90+
2012 Rhys Vineyards “Horseshoe Vineyard” Chardonnay (Santa Cruz Mountains)
The 2012 Rhys chardonnay from the Horseshoe Vineyard is a beautiful and absolutely refined example of its varietal, coming in at a cool 13.1 percent alcohol and offering up plenty of terroir to go with its beautiful fruit tones. The deep and complex nose jumps from the glass in a stunning constellation of apple, pear, a touch of iodine, hazelnuts, a fine base of soil and a deft framing of buttery oak. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied and still very youthful and primary, with lovely delineation and mid-palate depth, crisp acids and excellent length and grip on the well-balanced finish. This is still a very young wine (particularly on the palate) and I would not hesitate to tuck this away in the cellar for at least another three or four years before starting to drink it. Aromatically, there is a strong nod to Jean-François Coche’s white wines, and that is never a bad thing! Great juice. 2018-2035. 94+
2012 Rhys Vineyards “Alpine Vineyard” Chardonnay (Santa Cruz Mountains)
The 2012 Alpine Vineyard chardonnay from Kevin Harvey and his very talented team at Rhys Vineyards is another absolutely brilliant bottle of chardonnay. The wine is a touch riper than the Horseshoe bottling, coming in at 13.3 percent alcohol and offering a stellar bouquet of pear, white peach, iodine, a touch of acacia blossom, a bit of crème patissière, complex soil tones and a nice base of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and snappy, with a superb core of fruit, laser-like focus, great mineral drive and a very long, very young and very classy finish. This is simply a stunning bottle in the making, with grand cru authority, but it is still a puppy and needs plenty of bottle age to unwind from behind its racy and soil-driven structure. It is the best chardonnay I have tasted to date from Rhys, and their legacy with this grape has already been very impressive indeed, but I have the sense that the 2012 Alpine chardonnay has taken this varietal to a new level at Rhys Vineyards! 2020-2040+. 96+
2012 Alesia “Alder Springs Vineyard” Pinot Noir (Mendocino)
As readers no doubt are aware, Alesia is the label used by Rhys Vineyards for the wines they make from purchased grapes. The 2012 Alder Springs Vineyard bottling is true to the Rhys style, coming in at a cool and collected 12.5 percent alcohol and offering up a still quite primary bouquet of black cherries, pomegranate, woodsmoke, sarsaparilla, dark soil tones, a touch of herbs and a bit of cedary spice. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, youthful and quite promising, with a fine core, a fair bit of tannin to resolve and very good length and grip on the focused finish. Give this very good bottle three or four years in the cellar to really start to blossom- it should age well for twenty years or more. 2018-2035+. 90.
2012 Rhys Vineyards “San Mateo County” Pinot Noir (San Mateo County)
I assume that the San Mateo bottling is from some of the younger vines that were planted in Home Vineyard in 2007, as this very pretty and stylish wine is a bit more fruit-driven than a typical Rhys pinot noir and suggests rather younger vine fruit in the blend. The complex bouquet is a very pretty blend of black cherries, beetroot, a touch of underbrush, cola, bonfire, mustard seed and a bit of cedary wood. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and very wellbalanced, with a sappy core, modest tannins and very good length and grip on the classy finish. T Good juice. 2014-2030. 89+.
2012 Rhys Vineyards “Home Vineyard” Pinot Noir (San Mateo County)
The 2012 Pinot Noir from Home Vineyard is really a lovely wine, wafting from the glass in a very refined aromatic mix of pomegranate, cherries, dried eucalyptus, mustard seed, venison, coffee, cola and a very discreet framing of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is deep, fullbodied, precise and tangy, with a fine core of fruit, a nice signature of soil and a long, nascently complex and classy finish. There is more than a bit of a stylistic nod to Morey St. Denis in this wine this year, which is very enjoyable. 2016-2035+. 92+
2012 Rhys Vineyards “Family Farm Vineyard” Pinot Noir (San Mateo County)
The 2012 Family Farm Vineyard bottling of pinot from Rhys is another outstanding example of the vintage, delivering an excellent and exotically spiced bouquet of dark berries, black currants, woodsmoke, fresh thyme, mustard seed, dried eucalyptus, beef stock, dark soil tones and a touch of cedar. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and still very primary, with moderate tannins, lovely focus and grip, tangy acids and a long, classy and light on its feet finish. Beautiful juice. 2018-2040. 93
2012 Rhys Vineyards “Bearwallow Vineyard” Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley)
The Bearwallow bottling of pinot noir is always a bit of an outlier in the Rhys lineup, as this wine hails from Anderson Valley and I always sandwich in my lineup between the San Mateo County bottlings and those from the Santa Cruz AVA. However, this is an excellent wine year in and year out, with the black fruity personality of Mendocino pinot very much in evidence in the 2012 version. The excellent bouquet jumps from the glass in a mix of dark berries, espresso, dried eucalyptus, chicory, dark soil tones, botanicals and a touch of new wood. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied, deep and primary, with a good core, moderate tannins and a very long, classy and soulful finish. This may not be the most complex of the Rhys pinot noir bottlings, but there is great personality here and this is a wine that is going to age beautifully. 2018-2035+. 92+
2012 Rhys Vineyards “Horseshoe Vineyard” Pinot Noir (Santa Cruz Mountains)
The 2012 pinot noir from Horseshoe Vineyard came in pretty ripe in this vintage, tipping the scales at 13.5 percent, and of all the Rhys bottlings this year, this was one of my least favorites, as it seemed to have sacrificed just a bit of precision to the ripeness. This is still a very good wine, but by the high standards of this winery, just a tad disappointing this year, as it offers up a ripe and black fruity bouquet of black cherries, plums, chocolate, woodsmoke, dark soil tones, botanicals and a touch of new wood. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and nicely balanced on the attack, with a plump core, nice complexity and just a suggestion of backend heat on the long and velvety finish. This is not bad at all, but the bar has been set pretty high here by the Rhys team in the last several years, and this vintage of Horseshoe will never be one of my favorites. 2014-2025+. 90
2012 Rhys Vineyards “Skyline Vineyard” Pinot Noir (Santa Cruz Mountains)
The 2012 Skyline pinot noir from Rhys is utterly spectacular. The magical nose soars from the glass in a blaze of cherries, very complex minerality, pomegranate, mustard seed, a touch of orange zest, beetroot, woodsmoke, gamebirds, a touch of lavender and a very sophisticated framing of new wood. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, pure and intensely flavored, with a lovely core of fruit, moderate tannins, nascent complexity and a very, very long, tangy and laser-like finish. This is a brilliant bottle of young pinot noir. 2020-2050. 95+
2012 Rhys Vineyards “Alpine Vineyard” Pinot Noir (Santa Cruz Mountains)
The 2012 Alpine Vineyard has also turned out superbly well in this vintage, as the wine delivers a pure and complex nose of black cherries, fresh thyme, cigar smoke, espresso, stony soil tones and a lovely mix of savory elements in the upper register. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and nicely reserved in personality, with fine soil signature, lovely concentration at the core, well-measured tannins and a very long, tangy and first rate finish. All this beauty needs is some time in the cellar to allow its secondary layers of complexity to begin to emerge. Fine, fine juice. 2019-2045+. 93+
2012 Rhys Vineyards “Swan Terrace” Pinot Noir (Santa Cruz Mountains)
The Swan Terrace, from an easterly-facing section of Alpine Vineyard, is utterly stunning in 2012. The wine is one of the lowest octane of the Rhys pinots this year, coming in at a cool 12.6 percent (most of the range are in the thirteen percent range this year), and the wine is magical. The nose is a pure and utterly superb mélange of black cherries, dark berries, black minerality, coffee bean, a potpourri of complex botanicals, woodsmoke, a touch of gamebird, cola and a gentle base of cedary wood. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied, complex and marvelously soil-driven, with a fine core of fruit, moderate tannins and a very, very long, complex and tangy finish. Beautiful wine. 2019-2045+. 95
2011 Alesia ““Alder Springs Vineyard” Syrah (Mendocino)
The 2011 Alesia syrah is a touch reductive when first opened, so give it a bit of coaxing in decanter before drinking it. However, once it has opened up, the wine is excellent, offering up a deep and complex nose of cassis, roasted venison, black olive, woodsmoke, lovely soil tones, herb tones and a touch of new wood. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and rock solid at the core, with excellent complexity and grip, fine focus, ripe, firm tannins and outstanding length and grip on the young and beautifully balanced finish. This is terrific juice, but give it a couple of years in the cellar to really blossom from behind its structural elements. This is the best Alesia bottling I have yet had the pleasure to taste! 2017-2035. 93
2011 Rhys Vineyards ““Horseshoe Vineyard” Syrah (Santa Cruz Mountains)
The 2011 Horseshoe Vineyard Syrah is a beautifully transparent and refined wine, offering up striking purity with its 12.9 percent alcohol format. The bouquet offers up a precise and complex constellation of cassis, black raspberries, black olive, fresh herb tones, a superb base of dark soil, grilled meats, chocolate and a bit of cedary wood. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and very soil-driven, with superb mid-palate intensity, tangy acids, moderate tannins and excellent focus and grip on the long, pure and very well-balanced finish. This is a tour de force example of Santa Cruz Mountain syrah. 2019-2040+. 95+.
2011 Rhys Vineyards “Skyline Vineyard” Syrah (Santa Cruz Mountains)
The 2011 Rhys Syrah from the Skyline Vineyard tips the scales at a robust 13.5 percent alcohol, which is pretty impressive for the cool 2011 growing season. The wine is absolutely stunning, soaring from the glass in a vibrant blend of black raspberries, smoked meats, a touch of black olive, black pepper, stony soil tones, dark chocolate, a discrete framing of spicy new wood and a smoky topnote. On the palate the wine is deep, full-bodied and beautifully complex, with a superb core of fruit, ripe tannins, tangy acids and outstanding length and grip on the focused and very classy finish. This is very Hermitage-like and stylistically harkens back to the great old days at Chave. 2019-2040+. 96.